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Monday, December 27, 2010

Tip: Know Good Oils; Use No Bad Oils

Christmas has come and gone, now, and at a time when the average person gains weight, I lost two pounds. Such losses call for severe discipline over the holidays, when calorie-laden bring-a-dish parties and buffets multiply and cookies, cakes, and candies abound. Even I fell prey to a dish of pretzels sprinkled with peppermint chips and coated in white chocolate. My so-called friends, Roger and Cheryl, were real friends, until they brought those bedeviling pretzels into my house on Christmas Day, along with brownies and cheese chunks. I put out a buffet for my friends and relatives, and some bring food to add to the larder. As a result, all day long, my guests (twenty or more of them) ate turkey, ham, dressing, squash casserole, potato salad, cole slaw, deviled eggs, chopped chicken liver, sliced tomatoes with basil and mozzarella cheese, carrot salad, artichoke-heart dip, and spinach pie. I prayed the guests would also eat all the desserts, as well, including those peppermint-chip, white-chocolate-coated pretzel slices. I don’t even like pretzels, but add chocolate, and I scarf them down. Add peppermint, and they’re singing my name. After the main meal, I also set out a giant ├ęclair, a pear-glazed cake, fudge, and brownies, and as a result, perhaps, not many people sampled those special pretzels. Please, please let them be gone when everyone leaves, I begged silently.

Meanwhile, I stayed aware of my food choices, and while I probably overate a little, I didn’t stuff myself, and I avoided every one of the mouth-watering desserts, but those pretzels—those darned pretzels—begged me to taste them. I took a small chip, and the cycle began. I know for a fact that eating sugar makes me want more sugar, and sure enough, soon I found myself walking by the plate and taking one more little chip, and then a bigger piece, and then a whole pretzel, and the dance lasted for two days. Thankfully the quantity in the original bag was small to begin with, and I stretched out my treats, one piece at a time, maybe once every couple of hours, but by the day after Christmas, I knew I had to stop, and I did. Today I haven’t had any, even though many pretzel chips still remain on the plate, quietly calling to me.

My rule at Christmas is “no gifts.” We’re all old enough to buy whatever we want or need or want, so I’ve relieved everyone of the gift-exchange burden to create a guilt-free, stress-free Christmas. Nevertheless, my cousins Bryan and Michael brought me a hostess gift and denied it was a Christmas gift, and it was a bottle of exotic olive oil. I cannot wait to taste it! Olive oil is one of the few oils that are actually good for you, and I use it often, whenever I cook. It makes a great dip for bread instead of butter or margarine, as well, although I’ve been limiting my bread intake lately.

What about oils? Which ones are okay, when you’re trying to lose weight? I rarely click on ads on the Internet, but one caught my eye, a promise to explain some of the “diet” foods that could actually make us gain weight. I had to listen to a long, long promotional advertisement to get to the good information the ad promised, but in the end it was worth it. It promotes a series of e-books created by a nutritionist who touts eating fat-burning, rather than fat-storing foods, and guess which foods she says turn into sugar in our bodies that our bodies then store as fat. Yep, exactly the foods I’ve been avoiding on my food plan: pasta, bread, white rice, hydrogenated oils, sugar, and high fructose corn syrup, but she added one I hadn’t considered: Canola oil.

I recall all the hype in the 1970s about Canola oil and all its healthy benefits. It supposedly was high in omega-3, which was good for us. My, how information changes once you look into it. Turns out Canola oil is cheap, which is why so many processed-food manufacturers embraced it.

Here’s the whole scoop. Canola oil is made from genetically modified rapeseed plants. Rape oil is used as a lubricant, fuel, soap, and synthetic rubber base, and even to brighten colors in magazines. It is an industrial oil, not a food. Rape oil, when consumed, can cause emphysema, respiratory distress, anemia, constipation, irritability, and blindness. Obviously rapeseed oil is great for lamps and as a mosquito repellant, but products from rapeseed were not fit for human consumption until someone in Canada genetically modified the plant. In addition to the genetic modification, the process of making Canola oil involves a combination of high-temperature mechanical pressing and solvent extract, usually using hexane. Even after considerable refining, traces of the solvent remain. Like most vegetable oils, Canola oil also is bleached, degummed, deodorized, and refined at very high temperatures, a process that can alter the good omega-3 content in the oil and in certain conditions make the trans fat level as high as 40 percent. I also read that many products that claim they include olive oil, such as some mayonnaise manufacturers claim, actually contain mostly Canola oil and only a trace of or no olive oil.

By the way, the reason Canola is capitalized is that rape oil wasn’t exactly pleasing to consumers, so someone came up with the term Canola to refer to the oil originally created in Canada; basically Canada oil.

Olive oil, on the other hand, while expensive, is a natural juice that preserves the taste, aroma, vitamins, and properties of the olive fruit. Olive oil is the only vegetable oil that can be consumed as it is, freshly pressed from the fruit, without all the processing required of Canola and other oils. Studies have shown that olive oil offers protection against heart disease by controlling LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels while raising HDL (the "good" cholesterol) levels. No other naturally produced oil has as large an amount of monounsaturated fats as olive oil. Whereas Canola can potentially cause problems for some people who use it, olive oil has a beneficial effect on ulcers and gastritis. Olive oil even activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones much more naturally than prescribed drugs, so it lowers the incidence of gallstone formation.

An important component of the healthy Mediterranean Diet, olive oil, it seems to me, should be one of the few oils that someone trying to stay healthy should use. Other healthy oils include butter (yes, real butter, not the fake, processed stuff called margarine) and coconut oil. Other oily foods that are fine to eat on a healthy food plan include raw nuts, avocado, and even eggs. All yummy stuff. Nothing manufactured or genetically altered and renamed to avoid negative marketing implications.

Okay, so how did I do after cooking (and tasting) for two and a half days and then enduring a gluttonous Christmas Day? Not bad at all. I lost two pounds this week. Hooray for me!

Starting weight: 245
Weight last week: 198
Goal weight for this week: 197
Actual weight this week: 196
Total pounds lost: 49
Goal weight for next week: 195
Goal weight: 150

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